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Literature Comprehensive: General Research Guide: Getting Started

This guide makes writing a literary research paper easier. It covers GALILEO, GIL, and other literary resources. This guide helps with assignments in Engl1102.

Literary Research FAQ

Literary Research FAQ Literary Criticism

How do I select an author or a work?
Most of the time your professor will provide you with a list of authors. If he/she doesn't, choose an author whose works you enjoy. Similarly, most of the time, the works about which you write will be in your reader/textbook. If you need other works, the Library Catalog page of this guide gives instructions for finding both specific novels and shorter works.

My professor asked me to use credible secondary sources. What are they?
In the humanities, which includes language and literature, secondary sources are those written about your works by others. Often students refer to such sources as criticisms or critiques. You can find criticisms as book excerpts, in books, or as articles in scholarly journals or even newspapers such as the New York Times.

Credible sources are those which you can trust. These include books published by reputable companies, magazines and newspapers with fact checkers and editors, and peer reviewed scholarly journals. The easiest way to find credible sources is to use the library's databases and catalog for books and articles.

One great big tome       All you need is a few pages.

If books and articles about my story, play, poem, or novel are secondary sources, what is a primary source, and is there really such a thing?
In the humanities, which includes language and literature, primary sources are simply works by your author. Quite simply, the short story, novel, play, or poem about which you write is is a primary source, but so too are letters your author has written and an interview with your author in a newspaper or magazine.

Where do I find literary criticisms?
The library has a variety databases that have critiques, and there are also books with criticisms in them available through the catalog. This guide covers literary research that finds both books and articles.

Can I use the web for a literary criticism paper?
Because most of the material you need for your paper is under copyright you can not find it on the open web through search engines like Google. Note: Google Scholar sometimes leads to JSTOR entries, but more often it returns pages from a publisher's web site that wants to charge you to view articles. Using the library's databases gives you access to copyrighted and credible material for free.

Primary vs Secondary Sources

Primary vs. Secondary Sources
Primary Sources Secondary Sources
Are works written by the author him/herself. They are often the short story, poem, play, or novel, about which you are writing. Are critiques, summaries, criticisms, and overviews of that work in books, newspapers, popular magazines, and scholarly journals.
Appear in popular magazines and newspapers as interviews with the author. Appear in magazines and newspapers as book reviews. Appear in scholarly journals as criticisms, critiques, or overviews.
Appear in books as correspondence (letters) or autobiography. Appear in books as criticisms, critiques, or literary biography.

Important URLs

Important Library Links

Here are several important URLs to help with your research.

The Main Library Website.

Handouts for You.

Library Research Help

How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography (from Cornell University -- Olin Library)

For Students For You

For Students For You

Sometimes, you need just a little help understanding a literary piece, and that is where For Students comes in. For Students are series of reference books that give overviews and basic analyses of literary works. You can find them on the shelves in the reference areas of many Perimeter College of Georgia State University libraries, or online through GALILEO. To reach For Students through GALILEO:

1) Start with the library databases.

2) Scroll down to Databses A-Z.

Finding Gale databases from the GSU Libraries page

3) Select G from the alphabetic list, and scroll down to Gale Databases and click to open.

This is Gale Databases

4) Then scroll down to For Students, an ebook collection, and click to open.

Choose For Students which does not have an original button

5) Choose your For Students by its title. A horizontal scroll bar displays the titles alphabetically. Scroll to the right until you see the title you want, and click it!

Choose For Students which does not have an original button

6) Select a volume from the scroll box in the top right hand corner or from the list of the screen. Different For Students are set up differently.

7) You may also need to click an arrow to expand the middle part of the table of contents.

The illustration to the right shows both layouts, and the one below and with the burgundy border shows an expanded table of contents.

8)  Select an article that interests you, and you are done.
Choose For Students which does not have an original button
Choose For Students which does not have an original button